Make my day!!

Having a bit more time on my hands these days I have the pleasure of helping one day a week with my daughter’s school crossing.

This week I asked my youngest daughter Edie and her friend to say good morning to everyone who crossed.

Though both were anxious at first, eventually they got into the swing of it.

Why?

Simply because being outwardly friendly to someone, even those they completely did not know, got an outwardly friendly response and more – smiles, changes in demeanor, changes in body language; ‘the works’ really. No negativity whatsoever.

kia oraReally it’s not hard.

 

Say hello the first time.

Try and get their name in as well the next time.

And then move on up to asking how they are doing or wishing them a pleasant day.

At no cost, you feel better too.

Observe carefully and you’ll notice most awkward moments are created by what we don’t say rather than what we do – it’s just that we take more note of the few awkward moments we create when we say the wrong thing.

Little things that can have a big impact.

What’s your ‘school crossing’?

Who can you share this simple gift with?

If not this, then how will you Make ‘my’ day?

 

 

 

 

It’s Not ‘Not there’

Simply because we can’t see or hear something doesn’t mean it’s not there.

not there

Often, in fact, it’s right in front of us.

More often than we admit we choose not to see or hear things. It starts as a young child and the habit only becomes more subtle and more discreetly executed as we get older.

Statistically speaking 49.999% of us are in the bottom half of our chosen field of expertise, be it sport, academics, leadership or even parenting!

The perception we typically create for ourselves, however, is that we are in the upper quadrant and, in some studies 90% of people believe they’re above average!

Known as Illusory Superiority this bias has some interesting outcomes – and not always as you might expect.[1]

Ola Svenson (1981) surveyed 161 students in Sweden and the United States, asking them to compare their driving skills and safety to other people. For driving skills, 93% of the U.S. sample and 69% of the Swedish sample put themselves in the top 50%.[2]

Interestingly there is also a tendency for people in the face of a challenging task to suffer from the “worse-than-average” effect.

What makes these two tendencies interesting in unison is that it suggests as managers we will often overrate our ability to deliver a message and underestimate the threat our staff experience in new and challenging tasks.

Rather than pat ourselves on the back for delivering a great message and then expressing great disappointment when our staff don’t execute as expected, we should ensure that we examine deeply where such ‘missions’ fail.

Is an irate manager the result of our own unreality (about their ability) rather than an intrinsic failing in those we manage?

How often as managers do we check in with staff on their comfort with what is being asked of them?

How often as managers do we reassure our staff of our belief in their capability to do challenging tasks?

Simply because there is no noise, no feedback, no protest, doesn’t mean it is not there.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_superiority has a great run down on it.

[2] Svenson, Ola (February 1981). “Are We All Less Risky and More Skillful Than Our Fellow Drivers?” (PDF). Acta Psychologica. 47 (2): 143–148. doi:10.1016/0001-6918(81)90005-6.

 

 

Corporate Culture and Personal Identity

I’m not sure when Corporate culture became a thing – it certainly goes back to the eighties; you could spot IBM employees from 100 metres away, the confident swagger, fresh-pressed clothing and overt conversation.

Somewhere along the line ‘we all fall into line’, well, actually, no.

If our corporate culture and management style doesn’t recognize the individual we have neither an enviable culture nor a valid management style. Just because you have a great corporate culture doesn’t mean it’s a place all the people you ‘need’ are going to love it.

I'm still not sure if this was serious?
I’m still unsure if this sign was serious!

I predict the next big movement will be ensuring personal identity is built into and supported by corporate culture.

This will be a ‘thing’ because increasingly companies are realizing they need all manner of personalities and styles to make their company hum and high turnover of staff in any single area is a significant problem. If, however, they can embrace differences in individuals while integrating the corporate culture and company objectives then rewards will follow for everyone.

In the early stages of my own career, I was wooed by employers who thought the best way to retain my services was simply to pay more. The answer to keeping me happy was much more complicated – the mentoring I craved and the engagement I sought with senior management was most of what was required.

I stayed with and worked hardest for those where my identity was strongest – provided the basic culture was aligned with my values in the first place – though mostly I expect those things to go hand in hand (if the ‘outside appearance of the culture of a company doesn’t align with your values, don’t go there).

If you believe in your staff you need to feed them, and when you do, be aware that while some want steak and chips others want flowers or simply someone to listen to them. Almost anything can actually be accommodated with all but the very worst of corporate cultures and/or employees if you just take time to lean in and learn.

Collectively the individual identities in your organization will always be bigger, stronger and more enduring than your corporate culture, just imagine the strength of what that would create if they could all fit together in a dynamic ‘living’ organization.

I was taught by the woman who cleared my table

Travelling recently reminded me very much about my post on “Where you belong”.

It is an odd thing to be in a business lounge in Dubai which is bigger than Wellington’s entire airport.

It brings home “them and us” and illustrates how many there are of both; though what determines who sits in each camp is not always clear.

My first instinct with inequities like this is to struggle – that I should be a ‘have’ when many others, like the woman, with her ear missing and ‘half’ her jaw removed, clearing tables, have not.

Then without wishing to sound pious or arrogant, nor excesively “Ayn Rand”, I realise the best I can do is exactly that – to do the best I can do, be the best I can be, to honour those who cannot or will not, or won’t be given the opportunity.

If I squander the opportunties I have been given, then it is another matter.

Dan was part of my inspiration to do this blog. He is a great example of my point with this post. He cares deeply for others and honours everyone by putting himself out to the world and to his communities (blog, church and local); by leading, by being courageous.

Even great researchers can’t lead by keeping their work to themselves. They can only lead when they open themselves to criticism, to challenge, to the possibility of being wrong and having more to learn.

Ultimately any true form of leadership is the same. If you don’t reach out with authenticity and allow others to reach in are you truly leading?

The despots of the world past and present, are unfortunate examples of only reaching out to manipulate others and fuel their own egos, there was no reaching in.

Great leaders reach out and simultaneously reach in, and allow others to do the same, and their work is transformed when they do.

The thought of leaders emerging at any stage from anywhere, and in any number of ways, excites me. Reaching both out and in and sharing this with the world is not an exclusive domain. Anyone can achieve this.

There are some extraordinarily positive examples of ‘ordinary’ people providing outstanding leadership.

As has been commented upon by my readers – Swami/ Guru’s search within themselves for many many years before ’emerging’ as leaders.

Leadership can be quiet, subtle, loud, colourful, intense, effortless, sudden, short, prolonged, recognised, ignored, delivered by the young or old, etc.

I realise now how much leadership is about being open, putting you hand up, letting others see a little of what is inside you. It is not being right, being brilliant, being special or better than.

It is nothing more than being gifted and gifting.

And what really excites me is this personal insight not only improves my leadership but allows me to see far more leaders than ever before.

If this posts means there is one more leader ‘caught’ in the act by you, my readers (not excluding seeing yourself as a leader), it has been a success.

Today, look for the beauty in what many ordinary people do and support this as leadership.

It can be as simple as saying (with a smile):

“Thank you for clearing my table.”

Rewarding

And your prize is...
Many readers will be familiar with the theories of Maslow and Herzberg, the insights of Carnegie and the work of the likes of Goleman, Senge, and plenty of others.

I love all of it, even the stuff I don’t agree with is a learning experience.

I was reading a blog post the other day about Herzbergs Two Factor Theory which got me thinking of the other side of this coin.

There is plenty of literature on how to motivate, how to communicate, how to ‘read’ etc. but maybe the simplest thing of all is being overlooked?

    How often do we ask?

Or alternatively

    How often do we tell?

We know people can have a personal focus on anything:

    • Their cat/s
    • Their dog/s
    • Their exotic plant collection
    • Their child/ren
    • Their rally car/s
    • Their quality of work
    • Their quantity of work

But seldom do people readily express, nor does a manger ask, what ‘reward’ is, or means, for them.

I have a good friend who always said to me – “If you ask people it is amazing what they will tell you” (and it doesn’t matter what you ask). This is very true.

Certainly factors such as trust and authenticity enter into the equation and there is a fine line between prying and taking an interest, but I know as a motivational tool ‘asking’ works.

So there are two messages in this simple post about identifying what is ‘rewarding’ :

For others:

    Ask. Be authentic. Listen

For yourself:

    Tell. Be sincere. Communicate.

It’s probably the shortest route to reward for them and for you.

Thinking back over my own career – I did the first one well, while the second one would have saved a lot of grief for me and my employer.

Try it. You just might like it, and so might your employees.

Laughable or not?

Time means nothing
I think a sense of humour is a great quality for a leader to possess.

Moreso if they can share this humour throughout the organisation in an appropriate way then humour becomes a culture setting strength

However there are also ways to get this horribly wrong – and it is no laughing matter.

I think the landscape around this area has changed significantly in the last 20 years.

Bawdy and poor taste jokes thankfully have diminished significantly in most organisations.

At the same time I wonder – has the ability for the organisation to have a happy and healthy sense of humour, to be able to laugh at and with itself, gone as well?

Perhaps the nexus of the internet’s killing of the personally delivered ‘joke’ and the shift in standards of behaviour to much more appropriate norms has taken with it the art of great humour?

Further I wonder if there will be a backlash, and of what nature and to what extent?

I often think my posts are too serious- I have this little guy running round in the back of my head saying – “Lighten up, lighten up!”. It illustrates well the challenge of leading with serious intent while demonstrating a sense of humour.

Why is humour important?:

    It lifts our spirits
    Executed well there is more than an ounce of truth an insight in many good jokes
    Humour can be used to deliver important messages very softly
    Executed well it appropriately reduces stress and negative emotion around errors/mistakes/omissions.
    Surely a client seeing a happy smiling workforce is better than them seeing a humourless and dour one?

Here are some do’s and don’ts

    • Don’t mock
    • Beware – wit is either the lowest or highest form of humour, it depends on how and when it is used.
    • Sarcasm is just not funny in any way
    • Laugh with others but only if appropriate
    • Laugh at yourself (or never at all)
    • Laugh with people not at them
    • Set the standard for good and positive humour by what you say and what you listen too
    • Sexist, racist, bawdy jokes are seldom if ever funny, steer well clear.

How much humour in your work? In your workplace? At home?

My favourite punch line:

“To a pig, time means nothing.”

When we meet I’ll happily tell you what precedes it.